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LinkedIn Dos and Don’ts

Advice from the Front Lines of Executive Search

There is no denying that LinkedIn is the most powerful social media tool for online, professional networking. Job seekers and businesses alike use it to share content, find new contacts, market and communicate. Why, then, do some users treat it like Facebook 2.0?

As a professional researcher, I view hundreds of LinkedIn profiles daily. Some are clear, concise and professional, as a good resume should be. Others? Less so. Here are few examples of un-LinkedIn-like conduct that could get you eliminated from consideration for your next opportunity.

Profile Photos

The first thing I notice about a candidate’s profile is their photo. Some choose not to include one or they have it hidden from all but connections, but it is helpful to put a face with a name and profile. Less helpful is when a user pushes the boundaries of professionalism with their photos—or ignores them altogether! Photos taken in bathroom mirrors, shirtless photos, swimsuit photos, photos with strange filters or—my personal favorite—photos of the candidate as a cartoon character; these are all best saved for Facebook. While some photos are not particularly outside the boundary of professionalism, poor lighting and cropping can also detract from a candidate’s online image.

The best way to take an appropriate LinkedIn photo is to choose a current head shot so that your face takes up 60% of the shot. It is best to take it from the shoulders up, though be mindful of clothing—LinkedIn crops the photos to a small circle (or square on the recruiter side). I have come across more than one profile photo of a shirtless man or a woman in a strapless wedding dress—cut from the shoulders up. Dress like you are going to work, and save the party, fitness or hobby photos (I’m looking at you, SCUBA enthusiast) for Facebook and Instagram.

Also, facial expressions are everything. Smile with your eyes! You will look approachable and friendly. If a professional head shot isn’t an option, use good lighting and have a friend or coworker take the photo, or use your computer’s camera. Have others review your photos for feedback and help you choose the best one for your profile.

Content and Sharing

Sharing content on LinkedIn is a great way to network and build your personal brand. Keep it professional, keep it relevant and keep it engaging. Don’t regurgitate somebody else’s ideas. Advance the conversation, and avoid pointless comments, such as “Good” or “Great!” (a thumbs-up will suffice).

Take advantage of LinkedIn publishing and post an original article, or share content by others with your own introduction, as long as it is related to the business world. As much as you may love cat videos, save those posts for Facebook. And no trolling! Do not engage in combative or unconstructive dialog. To their credit, most LinkedIn users will pointedly ask you to take your mud-slinging elsewhere. Remember, anyone can see your comments: your manager, colleagues and potential employers. So, think twice before hitting enter on that fiery comment.

And while I’m at it, do not write in all caps... because no one wants to be SHOUTED AT!


Review your profile regularly to be sure position dates are correct and that you have included new accomplishments or projects you want to highlight. When crafting your profile’s headline, avoid buzzwords, such as guru, ninja, rock star, or (groan) “like a boss”. Include a description of responsibilities and accomplishments for your most recent positions. Make it clear and concise, and include enough detail to show what you achieved.

One of the most commonly overlooked details I encounter is the position end date: When adding a new position, be sure to put an end date on the last one! It can be a bit confusing for anyone viewing your profile if it looks like you are serving in several roles simultaneously.

And, as with any piece of writing, proofread! One great writing tip I have used since my college days is to read what you have written backwards—read the last sentence first and work your way to the top. Any typos will jump out at you that you may have skimmed over reading it the usual way.

Connecting with Others

Is it better to have a network that numbers in the thousands, or one with limited but reliable connections? Adding hundreds of people to your network could leave you with a large, but mostly meaningless collection of contacts. Give some thought about with whom you connect and grow a meaningful network. A large network doesn’t necessarily equal a strong one.

Remember what LinkedIn is and is not. It is not a no-holds-barred sounding board, and it’s not a dating app. It isn’t Facebook or Instagram, so be mindful of the photos and content you post. Always treat it as a professional forum. You want to be well-connected, you want to be visible, and always put your best face forward online.

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